Excited is an understatement to describe just how Ike Diogu feels as Nigeria’s D’Tigers head to China this summer for their third FIBA Basketball World Cup appearance.
Diogu, a seven year NBA veteran was very instrumental for the FIBA AfroBasket 2015 Champions as they punched their ticket for the global bonanza on a 10-2 slate.
The 35-year-old averaged 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists to spearhead Nigeria’s return to the planetary basketball showdown after a 13 year absence.
The Buffalo native who will be appearing at the FIBA Basketball World cup for the first time has been speaking of his delight suiting up for Nigeria in the competition
“I am fired up ahead of the tournament in China. It’s a very important competition, we worked hard to qualify for the World Cup and the entire team is happy things ended up positively,” Diogu told FIBA.basketball.
“We wanted to end the qualifiers unbeaten but unfortunately we lost 2 games during the final window. We made some mistakes and I think it’s a good thing because we will be able to work on them and improve going forward.”
The last time Nigeria featured in a FIBA basketball World Cup in Japan in 2006, Ike Diogu nicknamed “The Black Caesar” was a young gun on the books of NBA Franchise Golden State Warriors.
During the Japan showdown, D’Tigers crashed out of the tournament in the round 16 after a 78-77 loss against Germany in an epic matchup.
Thirteen years on, the FIBA AfroBasket 2017 MVP is upbeat Nigeria has gained a lot of experience and now has the mettle to rival the world’s best in China.
“We have a strong roster with players competing in top championships across the world. If they can stay healthy and be consistent, we’ll have every reason to be hopeful for a better performance as compared to 13 years ago,” the 2.06 m (6ft9) big man said.
“There is a great determination amongst the players. We feel like this could be our year to hit the big stage and send across a strong message that Nigerian basketball has immensely evolved.
“The World cup trophy may look a surreal objective but if we work hard and believe in ourselves, we can pick up a medal. That’s what is beautiful about the sport. Everything is possible in China.”
A two time Olympian and FIBA AfroBasket champion in 2015, Diogu will be bringing his wealth of experience and leadership to the court when Nigeria begin their journey in China.
“All my life I’ve played in top championships and I know what it means to play in a big tournament. I’ve learnt how to deal with the pressure and this is something I believe will be helpful to the team. I want to be an example for the others to follow but above all I want to lead the team to success.
“I’m passionate about playing for Nigeria and every game for ‘D’Tigers’ is a blessing. We know the World Cup will be huge but we’re resolute on accomplishing something big in China,” Diogu concluded.